The term “Equal Access” is also used more specifically to refer to the nondiscriminatory use of public school facilities. The Equal Access Act, passed by Congress in 1984, provides that when a public school district gives students an opportunity to form extracurricular clubs that meet on school grounds, that it may not refuse such an opportunity to Bible or Christian fellowship clubs.
Unfortunately, many liberal advocacy groups, such as the ACLU and People United for Separation of Church and State, argue that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment requires the government to discriminate against religious groups. They maintain that if religious groups are not barred from eligibility for generally available government benefits, then the government establishes a religion, in violation of the Constitution. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected that argument over the past twenty years in a variety of contexts.
The ACLJ has played a pivotal role in securing landmark decisions from the Supreme Court, as well as lower federal courts, which recognize the essentiality of the Equal Access principle in First Amendment jurisprudence. In Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, Jay Sekulow won a landmark victory before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of churches seeking to use community facilities on the same basis as other community groups. The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the principles announced in Lamb’s Chapel in Good News Club v. Milford Central School District, holding that local governments cannot discriminate against religious organizations, even when they propose to use community facilities for worship and religious instruction. The ACLJ filed a brief in that case. The Supreme Court has been clear, yet the ACLU and other groups attempt constantly to undermine equal access principles.
ACLU filed brief for Lamb’s chapel:
Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the United States by Solicitor General Starr, Assistant Attorney General Gerson, Deputy Solicitor General Roberts, Edward C. DuMont, Anthony J. Steinmeyer, and Lowell V. Sturgill, Jr.; for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by David H. Remes, T. Jeremy Gunn, Steven R. Shapiro, John A. Powell, and Elliot M. Mincberg; for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations by Robert M. Weinberg, Laurence Gold, and Walter A. Kamiat; for the Christian Legal Society et al. by Kimberlee Wood Colby, Steven T. McFarland, Bradley P. Jacob, and Karon Owen Bowdre; for Concerned Women for America et al. by Wendell R. Bird and David J. Myers; for the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs by Nathan Lewin and Dennis Rapps; and for the Rutherford Institute by James J. Knicely and John W. Whitehead.